Contained in our Beginner Training Schedule is a system for quantifying how much aerobic work you're doing and, especially for those new to multisport, giving one an idea of work equivalency. Race your strength, train your weakness, it is often said. If you're supposed to do as much or more in your weak event as in your strong, how does one know what more work is?
Over the years I've developed a system of points equivalency, and it works thusly:
1 mile cycling = 1 point
1/4 mile running = 1 points
100 meters swimming = 1 point
So, a balanced week might consist of 25 miles running, 100 miles on the bike and 10,000m in the pool. This shouldn't infer that a balanced week is better than an unbalanced one, only that, over a period of time, if you're consistently racking up more points in one event than another, your training favors that event.
This might not be a bad thing. If you've come to triathlon from swimming, you might rightly perceive that any lack of success you might have as a triathlete might be due to a lack of attention to the run. You might need to run 35 or 40 miles per week in order to make fast progress, whereas a pair of 4000m sessions in the pool might be enough to maintain your status quo. In this case, the aerobic work you perform in the pool will only gain you half the points you log running. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that.
As we've been moving through a pair of online "virtual camps" this points system has been employed, and questions arise about how one might modify this system. I haven't modified it in over a decade, however perhaps some changes are in order.
- Elevation: We have a pair of Swedes staying with us as I write this, Jonas Colting and Björn Andersson. The latter has just arrived, but the former has been here a couple of weeks. He's been campaigning for extra credit due to elevation gain. As we discussed this, it appears we both agree on the following: total elevation gain of 300' while running earns an extra point, and 1000' on the bike gains you a point. Yes, these points are hard to earn, however, it's not so much because of any extra difficulty. It's more a result of the extra time these aerobic sessions take. In point of fact, I'd probably be more tired after a 2-hour flat run than a 2-hour hill run, but if I flattened out hte 2-hour hill run it might only take me 1:30 or 1:40.
- Strength sessions: I've struggled with this, because these are not aerobic sessions per se. However, they are accretive to one's performance in an aerobic activity, especially an endurance activity that also requires a lot of strength. Therefore, I would probably lean against giving points for weight workouts if I was simply considering a pure runner. However, weights are especially helpful for the bike and the swim. So, I'm giving 1 point for every 5 minutes spent in the weight room, but you've got to spend at least 20 minutes in a session to rack up any points. A one-hour session would give you 12 points, but that assumes very little lollygagging. These points assume a hard-core weight session.
- Intensity: If one gives extra credit for elevation gain, why not for sessions engaged at a higher intensity? This is an aerobic points system, designed to give you an idea how much bulk you're doing during a building phase. If you want to engage in higher-intensity workouts, fine, however you'll probably find that your overall point totals will decrease. That's an eventuality when you engage in speedwork.
- Yoga, etc.: No, can't do it. Yes, you're right in arguing that yoga, or stretching, is just as accretive to performance as is a weight session. I'm not saying yoga isn't important. But if I give points for yoga, why not for massage? Or sleep? Or a good diet? At some point one has to draw the line or a system like this becomes meaningless.
Having established that, perhaps there is room for an overall training index, where not only aerobic work is quantified, but also other health factors. Perhaps points are added for every hour of sleep above 7 hours a night, and subtracted for hours less than that. Likewise, points are given for diet, therapies, and so forth. Perhaps you'll read about that in future Slowtwitch pages.